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Courting Success Runs in May’s Family : Volleyball: Newport Harbor freshman, who dabbles in several sports, comes from a long line of standout athletes.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

If bloodlines mean anything, then it only makes sense that Newport Harbor High School freshman Misty May has excelled at a net sport.

Her cousin is Brett Hansen-Dent, the top singles tennis player at UC Irvine.

Her mother, Barbara, played volleyball at UCLA and Cal State Northridge before embarking on a pro tennis career in the late 1960s.

Her father, Butch, played volleyball in the 1968 Olympics and is a top local beach volleyball player.

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As for their 14-year-old daughter, she’s a starter for Newport Harbor, the 10th-ranked volleyball team in the Southern Section 5-A division.

Last week, May was the only freshman named to the all-tournament team at the Orange County Championships. She splits time between setter and middle blocker and averages double figures in kills.

“She’s a very gifted athlete,” Barbara said. “You could tell it as she was growing up. There was never an ounce of baby fat on her, and she never went through an uncoordinated stage.”

And May is still growing. She’s 5 feet 8, wears a size 10 1/2 shoe and can jump and nearly touch a basketball rim. Her parents think she’ll be nearly six-feet tall by her senior year.

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With so much natural athletic ability, May has dabbled in several sports.

Her mother persuaded her to play tennis, although it has been relegated to a hobby. She was a top point guard in the YMCA basketball leagues. She high jumped 5-3 last spring, her first year competing.

She’s also good at soccer, playing “every position but goalie.”

But her favorite sport has been volleyball, which she has played since she first followed her father to the beach as a toddler. She has hopes of playing in college--Hawaii or Pepperdine are her favorites--and wants to follow her father’s lead to the Olympics.

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“I at least want to try out for the team in 1995,” she said. “I don’t care if I make the team or not in ’95, I just want to be ready again in 1999.”

May grew up in Santa Monica, and her parents owned a pizza stand at Muscle Beach. When Butch went to work, he usually took his baby daughter with him.

“She practically grew up in the back of that pizza stand,” Barbara said.

Some of May’s earliest memories are of watching her father play beach volleyball.

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“At first, volleyball was just something to do,” May said. “Then I really got interested and started playing every day.”

By age 5, she was bumping the ball when her father tossed it to her. At 10, she entered her first beach tournament with her father.

May began playing indoors when she was 11, excelling at age-group competitions. May was named first team All-American last summer after leading the Asics Tiger 16-and-under club team to a second-place finish at the Junior Olympics.

May, then 13, was the youngest All-American ever in that age division, Barbara said.

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During the summer, May stays close to her beach roots. She and Butch, now a film lab technician, and Barbara, a part-time florist, play pickup games during the week and tournaments on the weekends.

May made a smashing debut last summer, winning two major age-group championships with partner Kirstin Laird, a Los Alamitos senior. May’s mother hopes her daughter teams with a top pro beach player next summer and competes in local tournaments.

The family moved from Santa Monica to Newport Beach last year. Her parents wanted to escape the growing gang and transient problems in Santa Monica, but still live in a beach community.

They bought a house, which they are in the process of remodeling, in Newport from Barbara’s sister.

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Although May misses playing on State Beach in Santa Monica, she likes playing for Newport Harbor even more.

“Coach (Dan) Glenn has taught everyone a lot,” she said. “I like the school, and our team’s pretty good. But we have a lot of improving to do before the end of the season.”

Some coaches have wondered if May will burn out playing so much volleyball. She said she keeps it in perspective.

“My parents bug me after awhile because they know too much,” May said. “We’ll be out on the beach, playing for fun, and dad will be telling me what I’m doing wrong. I have to remind him that we’re just playing for fun.”

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Barbara laughs when asked about the family outings to play beach ball.

“I usually know when to stop with her,” Barbara said. “Butch coaches her all the time. Sometimes we’ll all be playing and he’ll get on her. It’s still life or death to Butch. We just have to keep reminding ourselves that she’s only 14.”


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